The universe conspired to teach me about seeking and finding treasure three times last week while on vacation. I thought I should listen. I am reminded that we all seek some kind of treasure, that we all face formidable obstacles, but that only some of us succeed. I promise, this does have application to marriage, but you’ll have to stay with me…
The first lesson came from a museum in Kansas that featured the recent excavation of a riverboat from 1836. Five untrained men set out on a wild-goose chase, researched and located The Arabia deep under a farmer’s field. (The Missouri River has changed its path significantly since the 1800s.) They had four months during the cold winter to excavate and search for the treasure they hoped would be inside, because come springtime, the farmer needed to plant his crops. One lucky day, they unearthed truckloads of brand new artifacts from the 1800s that were heading west to help new frontiersmen with setting up their new homes—priceless china, heaps of woodworking tools, clothing, jewelry, textiles and more. Most of the men and their wives doubted they would ever find the steamboat (others had tried), but one day they were drinking from a champagne bottle more than 130 years old. They now run a museum and have published several books about their achievement. Lesson: Believe that you can succeed even where others have failed.
A few days later, I went on a geode hunting adventure with friends and family at the Fox River in Missouri, hunting for geological treasure. This particular site is renowned for its plentiful 350-million-year-old Keokuk geodes. (If you’re not familiar with geodes, they have a grey, cauliflower exterior and look like regular rocks, but when you cut them open, they have crystalized interiors.) We ran into a geologist and teacher on our trek, searching for fossils in the limestone river walls. My son immediately found a rare fossil—something the geologist had driven 3 ½ hours hoping to find; he eagerly traded my son a geode for it. In a couple of hours, we located more than 50 geodes, including three boulder-sized rocks, and a second coral fossil. We lugged the large buckets and rocks home, and opened our treasures, revealing the sparkling interiors—each one unique. Lesson: Treasure is there for those who seek it.
On the morning of the geode hunt, our group stopped at a library book sale in Iowa seeking literary treasures. (At $2 for an entire grocery bag of books, you couldn’t go wrong.) One book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, caught my eye; I felt a compulsion to begin reading it immediately–while the other books got thrown in a bag. The book has sold more than 35 million copies in 67 languages and is a beautiful story of a Spanish shepherd boy who seeks—you guessed it—hidden treasure. Adventure, suspense, and travel are combined with great truths about how humans seek our life’s purpose, how we often give up just short of our goal, how we face innumerable obstacles as we are tested, and how we may ultimately succeed or fail. I loved the story, as well as the lessons.
At one point in the book, readers are tempted to think the protagonist has found romantic love, and that this is his treasure. But the story reminds us that we have a greater life purpose than finding love (although yes, romantic love is a treasure, to be sure). Love should encourage our life purpose, not hinder it. The story also teaches that treasure is found where you least expect it, but is found only after you complete your personal journey. And it reminded me that where your treasure is, your heart will also be (a biblical reference from the book of Matthew). We must keep our heart focused on what is good and pure and on what helps us fulfill our purpose. Greedy or wandering hearts will not find fulfillment. Fearful or stubborn hearts won’t either.
What does all this philosophical mumbo jumbo have to do with marriage? Good question; I think I may have rambled on a bit. The obvious conclusion is that you and your spouse should encourage and support one another to allow you each to fulfill your life’s purpose. Without this generosity of spirit, we may over time become resentful or feel unfulfilled despite having found love. This anger or resentment or feeling of failure may lead to drifting apart and a loss of intimacy.
As we seek our personal goal or purpose, I am reminded that we all have a long and twisted path, wrought with struggle and pain and, sometimes, even happiness. Yet, each bend or dip in our journey is ultimately necessary to end up at that unexpected place of previously hidden treasure. That’s true in life as it is in marriage, where we often find rocky periods and dark valleys. Many give up just one step before finding success. Others are rewarded, never anticipating the joy that becomes theirs after many decades together. They learn lessons at each point of struggle, and use those lessons to improve and ultimately to succeed. What lessons have you learned that helped you reach your goal or purpose?
What are you seeking out of marriage and life? Do you find it difficult to discern and/or fulfill your purpose? Do you have a goal/vision for your life, or do you find yourself like so many, spinning your wheels and feeling unfulfilled?
(While I recommend The Alchemist, particularly if you are struggling with fulfilling your purpose, I receive no compensation for this recommendation. You can follow the author on Twitter @PauloCoelho.)
Photo Credit: ©Daoud/PhotoXpress.com